Song: "Wildfire" (Tarrus Riley) and "Let's Do It Again" (J Boog)
Artist: Don Corleon (producer)
CD: Major and Minor Riddim
A great reggae producer is a master of disguise: able to make listeners unaware that the 10 tunes they've just heard share a single beat. That's because the building block of dancehall and contemporary reggae is the rhythm — in Jamaican parlance, riddim: a digitized beat over which dozens of artists record original songs. It's music-making as a dare: How far can you stretch a single beat, using just voices and melody?
One reggae producer feted for mastering that dare is Don "Corleon" Bennett, best known for his "one-drops": slow, mellow riddims in which the snare and bass drums are hit only on the third beat, in 4/4 time. Two very different tracks from Bennett's latest production — Major and Minor Riddim's "major" half, which features a traditional one-drop groove, punctuated by dancehall-style drum and bass — flaunt this mastery. In "Wildfire," roots-reggae singer Tarrus Riley delivers a passionate plea for Jamaica, written around the time of some deadly shootings in West Kingston. "Protect me people, Jah / no mek them get caught inna crossfire," Riley croons, his voice ardent enough to sound as if he's truly beseeching.
In "Let's Do it Again," meanwhile, the vibe is altogether different. The dulcet love song by newcomer J Boog — a California-born, Hawaii-based artist who sounds so authentically Jamaican, he's been dubbed "Jawaiian" — has a delightfully vintage sound to it, probably because J Boog's slightly strained, lovestruck voice is a dead ringer for that of lovers' rock legend Glen Washington; J Boog's rapid-fire DJing style, meanwhile, can give Sean Paul a run for his money. Two wholly different, utterly likeable tracks plus one malleable riddim equals a triumphant producer, indeed.